Can reading improve your mental health?

reading

James Withey, author of The Recovery Letters, has written an article about the power of reading and how it can make a huge difference in a time of need. James was diagnosed with clinical depression, attempted suicide and spent time in psychiatric hospital and crisis services where he developed the idea for The Recovery Letters.

In my notebook where I record all the books I’ve read, 2011 has thirty books listed. I’ve scored them and listen my top 5 favourites. Sarah Walter’s ‘Nightwatch’ came in at number one, if you’re interested. Then turn the page to 2012 and it’s blank. Nothing. Not one book.

This was the year my depression truly hit, and I couldn’t read at all. Not one sentence. It was a massive loss. My life was built around reading. I went to reading groups, haunted musty second-hand book shops at the weekend, read on my way to work meetings (when I should have been looking at the previous minutes), and read by the river each lunchtime delaying the time when I would have to go back to my desk.

Depression is all about loss. Loss of concentration, loss of vitality, loss of happiness, loss of meaning and loss of hope. Depression takes away all your coping mechanisms just when you need them to fight the illness; that’s how cruel it is.

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How can we stop anxious thoughts from spiralling out of control?

Anxiety losing controlClinical psychologists Sue Knowles and Bridie Gallagher discuss mindfulness as a way to relieve stress and anxiety.  Their article has been adapted from their new book, My Anxiety Handbook: Getting Back on Track, which provides young people with guidance on how to recognise and manage anxiety’s difficulties. The book is co-written by a young person with anxiety, Phoebe McEwen.

Do you ever feel like your mind is full of worries about what’s happening in the past or could in the future?  Sometimes we have so many things in our minds that it can seem like never-ending noise, a whirlwind or even a washing machine!

Mindfulness is a technique that helps us to calm our thoughts and focus on the present moment.  This means that we try to think about the here and now, and not the past or future.  If thoughts are racing around your mind, you may feel anxious, worried, overwhelmed or stressed.  It can be useful to take some time just to “be aware” in the present moment, accepting what is happening around you.  Mindfulness is quite different from relaxation, although it can lead to you feeling more relaxed.  With mindfulness, the goal is to focus your mind and be more aware of what you are experiencing; whereas with relaxation, the goal is simply to relax or release a tense body or mind. Continue reading

Simon Faulkner’s 2018 Rhythm2Recovery USA Tour

Simon Faulkner, author of Rhythm to Recovery, will be holding three workshops in the US in April! Learn how to utilize rhythm and reflection in both therapeutic and educational settings and familiarize yourself with a model of practice that has a proven track record for social and emotional development. For anyone interested in fun, interactive rhythmic exercises to use with both individuals and groups, this is the workshop for you.

For more information and to register, visit:

American Rhythm2Recovery Workshop 2018 (10) (002)

Inside food anxiety: Leah’s story

Inside food anxiety: Leah’s story

This article on food anxiety is by Jo Cormack, author of Helping Children Develop a Positive Relationship with Food.

Have you ever looked into a child’s eyes as they contemplate the plate of food you have served, and thought to yourself “what is going on in there?” Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be a very picky eater, anxious about what challenges the next meal may bring?

Empathy is at the heart of my approach to working with picky eaters, because if we can’t put on a child’s shoes and walk around in them (as Scout puts it, in To Kill a Mockingbird…) we can’t hope to help that child. Seeing food from their perspective is essential.

This article is all about what it’s like to be a very picky eater, struggling with food anxiety. I wanted to share a child’s point of view, but with an adult’s insight and ability to articulate complex and emotionally difficult ideas. So I asked Leah (not her real name) – a parent in my facebook group for parents of picky eaters where I am co-admin – if she would mind recounting her experience of being a very picky eater as a child.

Leah told me how, until she was two or three years old, she ate pretty much everything. But then when her baby brother arrived, she explains that “in protest, I just stopped eating”. I have seen this before; sometimes big life changes can be incredibly hard for young children to process. They feel profoundly out of control and so they search frantically for something that they can control. Sometimes, this can be their eating. It’s one of the few things that a toddler can choose to do, or not do. Continue reading

A Crash Course in Widowed Single Parenting – Top Tips for Keeping It Together

Things Jon Didn’t Know About: Our Life After My Husband’s Suicide is an honest and moving account of the day-to-day practicalities of raising a family as a single parent survivor of suicide with advice on how to talk to children about death and how to support them as they grow up. Author Sue Henderson draws on her experience as a social worker to discusses theories of grief and men’s mental health. Here are her ‘top tips for keeping it together’, taken from chapter 2, ‘A Crash Course in Widowed Single Parenting’:  Continue reading

A learning resource about a boy named Simon who gets physically bullied

physical bullyingAge range:

Ages 11 to 16

Description:

A story about a boy named Simon who gets an orange thrown at him by a group of boys and repeatedly knocked into as he walks past them in the playground.  It tells the story of the bullying from Simon’s perspective and the emotional impact this has on him.  The story can be read out loud to a class or individually. Also contained are strategies to overcome the bullying, such as using humour to deflect their behaviour, looking and behaving in a confident way and taking a different journey route.

Click here to download the resource

Simon’s story is taken from Michael Panckridge and Catherine Thornton’s Be Bully Free, which is a hands-on guide for young people aged 11+ on how to take control of being bullied.

A worksheet to help young people manage the stress of exams

Age range:

Ages 10+

Description:

A self-help CBT worksheet that provides a host of tips, strategies and behaviour techniques to help young people manage the stress of exams.  It includes an exam stress diary with relaxation exercises to help monitor your emotions, and explains the importance of getting into a good routine, not wearing yourself out but also not procrastinating too much either.

Click here to download the resource

This extract is taken from Kate Collins-Donnelly’s Starving the Exam Stress Gremlin, and is the latest instalment in her bestselling and award-winning Starving the Gremlin series. Full of fun activities based on cognitive behavioural therapy, the Gremlin series teaches young people to manage common emotional and behavioural difficulties such as anger, depression and anxiety.

Self-help exercises to help older children manage worry and anxiety

managing anxietyAge range:

Ages 9+

Description:

An engaging, self-help guide based on cognitive behavioural therapy that teaches young people mindfulness techniques to alleviate their worry and anxiety.  Strategies include ways to shift your attention away from your worry, not to fall into a debate with it, and learning to accept rather than fight your anxiety when it is present.

Click here to download the resource

This extract is taken from bestselling author Dawn Huebner’s new book, Outsmarting Worry: An Older Kid’s Guide to Managing Anxiety.  Written in language immediately accessible to children, it teaches young people, and the adults who care about them, specific skills that make it easier to face and overcome their worries and fears. 

The University Years: Claire Eastham discusses living with social anxiety

University

University can be a difficult time for anyone, but throwing social anxiety into the mix just makes it that much harder. Claire Eastham, author of We’re All Mad Here, has battled with her social anxiety for many years, from her school days, through university and even when she started working in her dream job in publishing. In this extract, she discusses how going to university affected her mental health and the different ways she tried to combat her anxiety. She also touches on the exam stress, social media and the pressure of fitting in.

Click here to read the extract

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Creative coping strategies to help young people manage stress, anxiety and other big feelings

Age range:

Ages 8 – 14

Description:

A colouring book and journal filled with uplifting quotes and poems that encourages children experiencing stress, anxiety and other big feelings to manage their emotions. With a range of activities that introduce mindfulness and encourage relaxation, the workbook is designed to prepare young people for future difficult situations.

Click here to download the resource

This extract is taken from Pooky Knightsmith’s The Health Coping Colouring Book and Journal, which is designed to help young people manage difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions such as anger and anxiety.